More GMO Notes, and a Chocolate Caramel Coffee Tart

Do you see the little “Science!” label down there on the right? After you scroll down a bit, underneath all the tasty stuff?

Exhibit A: Tasty Stuff

Those scientists and science bloggers are working hard to make foods better, safer, and more understandable for everyone else. Recently, the good folks at Biofortified have explained, in very clear terms, why GM foods don’t have any more scary genes in them than any other foods you’ve ever eaten, since of course bacteria and viruses are already everywhere, and every time you eat anything you eat the little guys and all of their genes as well. And if you still think after my earlier discussion of the subject that GM foods lead to horizontal gene transfer and presumably plant-people? The GMO Pundit explains an article that shows that a happy little beetle managed to get a useful little bacteria gene all his own, without a GMO in sight.

I know this is a food blog, and I promised chocolate, so I’ll keep this short. Basically, if you cook, you use science. You don’t have to think in terms of chemistry when caramelizing sugar, because following the protocol recipe will get you results just the same. You don’t need to know the biological mechanisms of capsiacinoids to add the heat of chile to a dish. But I think at least knowing the information is out there– and that it’s available and understandable if you’re interested whether you did well in science in school or not– is important. And hey, it’s cool! Scientists are doing things with plants and nutrition that look straight out of science fiction, and it’s brilliant. Give it a quick peek, is all I’m saying.

So now we can get back to caramelizing sugar and melting chocolate and keeping that smell in your kitchen as long as possible.  Because caramel and chocolate go together like nothing else. Because coffee makes both caramel and chocolate taste better. And because everyone should have a chocolate tart recipe. So I adapted one from David Lebovitz. I removed the flour from his filling, as mine seemed thick enough without it and I want to be able to pour it into a gluten-free crust* if we have company with Celiac. The chocolate is a tad darker in mine as well, but offset by the slightly sweeter chocolate ovals used to decorate it. And the smell in the kitchen? I turned off all air circulation in the apartment just so we could breathe it a little longer. It’s sweet and complex and full of coffee. If we could bottle that smell, I could quit my day job and just sell chocolate-caramel-coffee scented candles because who doesn’t want a dozen of those?

Ingredients (Makes 1 9-inch tart; serves 10-12. Crust adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s sweet tart dough, filling adapted from David Lebovitz’ chocolate tart)

For the crust:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 t salt

1 t vanilla

9 T butter

1 egg

For the filling:

1 cup sugar

6 oz. espresso

8 T (1/4 lb, 1 stick, 4 oz) butter

3 oz unsweetened chocolate

3 oz bittersweet (72% +) chocolate

2 eggs at room temperature

1 T vanilla extract

optional: for a bit of heat, add 1-3 t chile powder when you add the chocolate (how much you use depends on the heat of the powder you’re using; a pinch of Habañero powder goes a lot further than a whole teaspoon of Poblano).

Directions The crust comes first, of course. To prevent it being grainy, you’ll want to use superfine sugar. To make superfine sugar, place granulated sugar in the bowl of your food processor  and run it for about 30 seconds to a minute.

Add the flour and salt and pulse briefly to combine.

Add the butter and egg (and the vanilla, not shown).

Apparently I forgot to keep taking pictures of dough making, but if you’d find them helpful it’s just about the same dough as used way back here for a lemon-blueberry tart. Sorry about that. Pulse the dough in 2-3 second bursts until it comes together in a smooth ball. Chill the dough for two hours or more, then roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick. Line a buttered 9-inch tart pan with the dough, and line the prepared crust with buttered tin foil. Add pie weights and bake with foil and weights at 375°F for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and bake another 10 minutes to brown. Set aside the crust and turn the oven down to 350°F. Start the filling by caramelizing some sugar. Just pour a cup of sugar into a saucepan. . .

. . .and heat it up over medium-high heat, stirring gently, until you have thick, bubbly caramel.

Pour in the espresso and whisk vigorously to combine.

Try not to spill espresso all over the chocolate. Add the butter to the coffee-caramel mixture.

Whisk in the butter and add the chocolate.

Whisk the mixture until smooth.

Test the temperature of the mixture by dipping a spoon in it and tasting. If it’s scalding to the tongue, keep whisking until it’s merely pleasantly warm before adding your eggs. Unless of course you want scrambled eggs in you chocolate tart. When the mixture is not too hot, add the eggs.

Whisk the eggs in, giving the filling a lovely pudding-like texture, and pour it into the waiting tart shell.

Bake at 350°F for 20-22 minutes until the filling is just set but not dry or cracking. If you have any pretty chocolate pieces like these Valrhona fèves lying around, grab a handful for decorating the top. What can I say? I can’t resist the bulk chocolates at Central Market.

The texture is completely smooth, almost a warm pudding. The tart shell adds sweetness and a lovely crunch to the mixture, and the sweeter chocolates on top (only 53% cocoa) finished it out perfectly.

I didn’t cut into the tart warm, as it was a birthday tart for a co-worker and tradition dictates that the birthday boy or girl gets to cut the first slice, but I did re-heat a slice in the oven the next night and it was divine. Not that anyone complained at room temperature; there really is no comparison to a good chocolate tart.

Sadly, I can’t make or eat anything like this right now; I had my third molars removed this morning and am having a certain amount of difficulty with yogurt and mashed potatoes, let alone a delightful flaky-crisp tart shell. So eat one of these for me, okay?

* to make this a gluten-free pie or tart, simply use this filling and the gluten-free graham cracker crust found here, or any other GF crust that you like.

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  1. #1 by frugalfeeding on March 3, 2012 - 3:23 AM

    This is such a pretty looking pie. What piece of music is that? The same bars appear to be repeated over and over, but it must be an excerpt from something… 😀

    • #2 by koshercorvid on March 3, 2012 - 3:56 PM

      I wish I knew! my husband played it on his flute a few times, but neither of us recognize it. It’s just a 12×12 inch scrapbooking page that I used as a background, and it repeats the same few bars of music over and over. It bears some resemblance to Bach’s toccata & fugue in D minor, but that’s not it. Sorry, we just can’t figure it out!

  2. #3 by Rikki on March 5, 2012 - 10:35 PM

    Espresso and chocolate combined in a tart…now that sounds yummy.
    It looks delicious!

  3. #4 by Lynda Kayes on March 12, 2012 - 3:04 PM

    looking for a dessert recipe for this weekend after corned beef and cabbage, this looks like the perfect one. I’ll let you know how it goes, is ice ream too much??

    • #5 by koshercorvid on March 12, 2012 - 8:37 PM

      I found a caramel ice cream that was perfect with this, but vanilla would likely do as well. Or more chocolate. You can’t go wrong with more chocolate.

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